.Grey Starr is Proudly Goth, Filipino and Queer

Richmond-based artist releases music honoring who she is and where she comes from

Long home to hip-hop royalty like Tupac Shakur and Mac Dre, the Bay Area has birthed bands like Green Day and the Dead Kennedys, and inspired singers and actors alike. Blending cultures from around the United States and the world, the Bay also offers a safe place for the LGBTQ+ community.

Unfortunately, hip-hop as a genre sometimes breaks more bridges than it creates, and though queerness and fluidity populate every race, ethnic minority cultures are more likely to shun a queer family member. One artist to come out of the Bay sits at the intersection of these categories, and is active in each community.

Grey Starr (she/they), a Filipino/Irani, transgender, goth, hip-hop and punk artist from Richmond, released their first solo album under the stage name Goth Auntie Grey Starr—“GAGS”—during this year’s AAPI month. The album, BAKLA, doubles as both a gothic rap treat and an activist’s sermon. A Tagalog word for a person who is both queer and androgynous, bakla is considered a third gender, generally referring to someone who was born male but is feminine by expression.

A Pew Research Center study showed that 73% of people in the Philippines say homosexuality should be accepted by society. Yet the island group experiences the same problem with their government’s representation of homosexuals as does ours. The Filipino senate has delayed the SOGIE Equality bill, to codify protections for LGBTQ+ residents, for nearly 23 years. According to the human rights group Amnesty International, the bill passed in the 2022 Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality, but has been delayed continuously since then.

In America, immigrant families often choose assimilation. As a result, many parents and grandparents forgo teaching their children the language(s) of their people so as to prevent them from becoming social outcasts. It’s a catch-22: Teach your child the stories and beliefs of the society you left behind and risk your child being bullied in school/society, or Americanize your child and watch them grow up without a full understanding of their roots.

Starr is half Filipino/half Irani. “My parents and grandparents went through [the process of] assimilation; they were trying to fit in,” Starr says. “So now I’m teaching myself Tagalog [because] they didn’t teach me, but I heard it all the time.” Starr now represents her Filipino heritage loudly and proudly.

She inherited her musical ability and goth aesthetic from her family, producing the album’s guitar, bass, synth and many of the beats herself. Her name is an homage to her family, with Starr being her grandmother’s name, whom she raps her appreciation for in the last verse of the song, “Bakla.”

“So many things about our culture, not just the amazing food and the fact that most of us can sing—there’s so many cool things, like folklore and mythology,” Starr says. “It’s amazing to read that the queerness in the ancient Filipino stories is something we’ve always revered. It wasn’t until colonial colonization that [queerness] was looked down upon.”

The first lines of her song “Bakla” offer the same sentiment:

“I love my Filipino people dearly

Before colonialism we celebrated

Queer folks so clearly

We revered our Bakla 

In a true sense

Before Catholicism 

Made our families ruthless”

Starr says, “I would like somebody who hears [the album], who’s queer or figuring themselves out, to not be ashamed of who or what they are because of the influences around them. Filipinos have a beautiful history of queerness, so fuck any of these elders who are obsessed with Catholicism and Christianity that [colonialism fed them] for hundreds and hundreds of years.”

On June 20th at Alameda Comedy Club, Grey Starr will host a What We Do in the Shadows-themed Pride event, with performances from her band Pretty Frankenstein—and possibly her performing something from her new solo career—and Drag Queens and Drag Kings.

Dead But Delicious, 8:15pm, June 20; Alameda Comedy Club, 2431 Central Ave., Alameda. 510.318.1538. www.alamedacomedy.com

1 COMMENT

  1. Go, Grey!! Thank you for your representation of and support for LGBTQ Filipinos and Bay Area musicians!! ❤️❤️❤️

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